AG's Legal Opinion Obtained by Haaretz / Gavison's Bid for Prison Head Sunk by Favors for Inmates

Gavison plans on appealing to the High Court of Justice, claiming that the polygraph was administered by a private company rather than by the Shin Bet as is customary for public officials.

Eli Gavison, who lost his bid to be the next head of the Israel Prison Service, was determined to have lied during his polygraph when asked if he had used his influence as a warden in order to procure improved prison conditions for inmates.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein announced yesterday that Gavison, once the top choice, would no longer be considered a suitable candidate since his conduct has complicated legal efforts to secure confirmation for his appointment as prisons chief.

Eli Gavison
Dan Keinan

On Sunday, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch withdrew his support for Gavison's candidacy. The minister said that he plans to name Jerusalem police chief Aharon Franco to run the prison service.

Gavison plans on appealing to the High Court of Justice, claiming that the polygraph was administered by a private company rather than by the Shin Bet as is customary for public officials.

Weinstein told Haaretz yesterday that there are currently no plans to open a criminal investigation against Gavison in light of the recent revelations regarding his conduct.

The attorney general's legal opinion which served as the basis for Aharonovitch's decision was obtained by Haaretz yesterday. It reveals, in great detail, the behind-the-scenes considerations that led to Gavison's disqualification.

According to Weinstein's opinion, the Turkel committee on high-ranking public appointments wrote a letter to the attorney general on March 9 indicating that there were two matters that remained to be resolved in connection with Gavison's fitness for the job: intimate relations between Gavison and a number of female IPS officers, and concerns that criminal elements could make contact with Gavison or his family illegally.

The Prison Service informed Weinstein that there was no substance to the allegations that Gavison had an affair with prison guards who were under his command.

Since the original allegations were made by an anonymous source and those allegations were denied by Gavison, Weinstein determined that there was no legal ground to investigate the matter. The attorney general noted in his opinion that none of the female officers submitted a complaint against Gavison.

As to whether criminal elements would seek to curry influence with Gavison in an effort to obtain better prison conditions, Weinstein requested that the Public Security Ministry arrange for a polygraph.

Weinstein's office provided the ministry with an anonymous complaint which accused Gavison of personally accommodating requests on behalf of certain inmates from Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

Initially, Gavison agreed to take the polygraph, but later recanted, according to Weinstein. He then submitted a document detailing his past contacts with public officials.

"The decisions I made over the years and the instructions I handed down were based on professional considerations and were devoid of all personal or other interests," Gavison wrote in a signed statement.

Gavison added that he had considered thousands of requests made on behalf of convicts, and that all of the requests were forwarded to the appropriate officials.

"The candidate [Gavison] stated that he could not recall any request from Minister Eli Yishai," according to Weinstein's opinion. "But he did confirm a request from MK Litzman on the matter of providing specially arranged meals for a Haredi inmate. According to [Gavison], he took care of the matter, but the inmate would have received the same attention for his needs in accordance with Prison Service regulations."

The Weinstein document also reveals that Gavison was accused of having ties with reputed crime boss Rico Shirazi during his incarceration at Nitzan Prison. At the time, Gavison served as the chief warden of the prison.

An anonymous letter which reached the Turkel committee alleged that prison officials held information that supported the allegations of an improper relationship.

Gavison told Weinstein that he made a few decision regarding Shirazi's incarceration, while other matters relating to his prison conditions were made by other officials in the prison. He said that the decisions he made in connection with Shirazi were no different from those that other officers took with the underworld figure.

Weinstein wrote in his report that Gavison provided contradictory answers when asked during the polygraph whether he received requests for improved prison conditions from relatives and family members of inmates.

Gavison's attorney, Boaz Ben Zur, said he plans on petitioning the High Court of Justice this week against the decision to disqualify his client.

"There came a point later in the vetting process when somebody decided to hang their hopes on a privately administered polygraph that is illegitimate and flawed," said Ben Zur. "Today, as we examine the recommendations of the attorney general, we see that he too has reservations regarding the polygraph. We are certain that the harm done to Gavison's good name is substantial and devoid of any evidence that would justify it. It is sad that no official has put a stop to this."